OpenStack Platform Aims to Erase Cloud Vendor Lock-in

Ann All

Art Cole, a contributor who covers data center and infrastructure for IT Business Edge, last month made a compelling case for an open cloud, writing:

If 2011 is to be the year the cloud moves from the proof-of-concept phase into deployments of actual working environments, the issue of vendor lock-in will have to take center stage on the part of both platform and service providers. After all, the only way in which the cloud can gain any traction at all, at least during this early phase, is to be seen as simply another extension of data center infrastructure. Without the flexibility to scale up resources at a moment's notice and shift data loads across multiple environments, the cloud is simply a more complicated version of existing off-site storage and processing services.

He went on to mention several cloud management systems but rightly noted such systems are a stop gap. What's really needed, Art wrote, is "widespread embrace of the kind of open technology that has had such a hard time gaining a foothold in traditional infrastructure."


I agree, and I think it has a lot to do with the way the cloud has been marketed. Cloud providers have promoted enhanced flexibility and lower costs as key benefits of the cloud, saying they can offer these things in a way that on-premise systems providers simply cannot.


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In a post with a similar theme from October, Art mentioned the OpenStack platform, an open source cloud infrastructure ecosystem created by Rackspace and NASA. Rackspace just marked OpenStack's six-month anniversary, and it appears to be gaining real momentum. An initial public Design Summit for the project, held in October, attracted more than 250 people from 90 companies and 14 countries to Texas to plan for the second and third code releases, according to the news release.


Internap, an Atlanta Internet infrastructure provider, just introduced a public storage service based on OpenStack, becoming the first organization outside of Rackspace and NASA to actually deploy the platform, reports The Register, for a cloud storage service it expects to introduce to the public after a "very short" trial period.


The article lists some of the platform's heavyweight backers, including Dell, Microsoft and Japanese telecommunications giant NTT. It also details OpenStack's origins, noting it's based on Nova, a compute engine and fabric controller designed by NASA, and Swift, an object storage platform built by Rackspace. Nova powers NASA's internal Nebula compute cloud, while Swift code drives Cloud Files, Rackspace's public storage service.


OpenStack can be used for both public and private clouds and should facilitate the creation of hybrid cloud environments, which many observers expect to be the cloud model ultimately adopted by the majority of organizations.


A goal shared by Rackspace and NASA, mentioned in another Register article, is for OpenStack to operate with any hypervisor, any database and different APIs. Originally built to work with the open source KVM hypervisor, OpenStack now supports Xen and Citrix's XenServer, and Microsoft has joined forces with Cloud.com to build in support for HyperV. VMware is a notable omission, but Rackspace's Mark Collier says the open source community can address this, with or without VMware's support. A similar approach is planned for databases and APIs.

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